Containers trucked outside port booking systems on the rise

By: Rob McKay

BITRE’s latest Waterline report on port efficiency records non-VBS movements for first time

Containers trucked outside port booking systems on the rise
Vehicle booking systems use is declining.


The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) has begun recording non-rail port container movements outside vehicle booking systems (VBS) and truck appointment systems (TAS) for the first time – and finds they are on the rise.

The Waterline 57 report also measures for the first time backloaded operations, whereby trucks carry containers on both inbound and outbound legs of their trip.

And while it doesn’t analyse reasons for change, the report does illustrate the torsion being applied to the container distribution system by supply chain factors affecting the nation’s five main container ports.

For instance, while fewer ships are arriving at ports, they are carrying more, with the relentless 2.5 per cent average rise in containers, measured as twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), unabated.

‘Whole of port’ TEU exchangedat Australia’s five major container ports increased to a total of 3.4 million TEU for the period January-June 2015, an increase of 2.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2014.

The percentage increase varied by container port: Brisbane increased by 5.8 per cent, Sydney by 4 per cent, Melbourne by 2 per cent. Fremantle was stable, while Adelaide declined by 6.2 per cent.

The ‘whole of container terminal’ measure of the number of ship visitsto the five ports declined to 1934 ship calls to berth in the period January-June 2015, a decrease of 4.8 per cent compared to the corresponding period in the previous year.

The total number of ship calls to the major container ports declined by 4.1 per cent compared to July-December 2014.

The ‘wharf-side of port’ measure of the total number of containers handledincreased by an average of 1.3 per cent across the five ports.

Just over half of these containers were larger, 40-foot containers, equalling two TEU.

Throughput growth in TEU has declined slightly to 2.8 per cent, still exceeding non-farm GDP growth at 2.5 per cent.

Over the period from 1994 to 2015, GDP increased by more than 90 per cent while container throughput grew by more than 280 per cent.

VBSs were introduced to impart a measure of order and discipline to port pick-up and delivery.

While they and the advent of container rail in Sydney and Adelaide this decade have reduced non-VBS movements, in Sydney at least, the fall has been arrested gradually since mid-2011.

Only Brisbane and Adelaide have stayed relatively steady, though Adelaide’s VBS truck numbers are down since late 2013.

BITRE researchers note non-VBS movements might include empty container operations, bulk runs and containers handled at the port by importers and or exporters.  

Meanwhile, the total number of used truck timeslots in five ports declined by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter and increased by 0.5 per cent in the June quarter, compared with the corresponding periods of 2014.

The number of truck slots available in the March quarter declined by 1.5 per cent, and the June quarter declined by 2.5 per cent.

Usage of weekday off-peak truck timeslots increased 3.7 per cent across the five ports to 42 per cent in the March quarter, and by 0.5 per cent to 41.6 per cent in the June quarter.

The full report can be found here.

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